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Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise Review


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1956209216_DeadlyPremonition2boxart.jpg.cc2af28e6e80be4d4c95eae6e24eac3d.jpgThe original Deadly Premonition, released in 2010, achieved cult classic status not because it was a good game but because it was a confoundingly bizarre one. It was riddled with technical issues and just plain mediocre design, particularly with its clunky combat mechanics, but the utterly unusual writing—particularly the quirks of its protagonist, FBI agent Francis York Morgan—endeared it to tons of players. But how do you make a sequel to a game like that? One that was loved both because of and in spite of its flaws? It puts Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise in a precarious position, resulting in a game that feels just as plagued with problems but without the accidental charm of the original.
 
If the first game wore its Twin Peaks influences on its sleeve, A Blessing in Disguise does the same with True Detective. The game opens with two FBI agents interrogating an aged York in 2019 before flashing back to 2005, where the majority of the game takes place. Back then, York was swept up in a murder investigation in the small town of Le Carré, Louisiana, where a teenage girl was completely dismembered and propped up on an altar for display. York teams up with the local sheriff and his precocious daughter to investigate the matter, which weaves into bizarre ritual and metaphysical territory, all while involving the quirky town locals. The writing is verbose and seemingly aimless at times, capturing an almost stream-of-consciousness style as characters dip into random pop culture references and oddball behavior seamlessly. It's undeniably fascinating to watch the story unfold, though it's not quite satisfying. It feels like there's too much weirdness for weirdness sake here, particularly in the game's climax which throws a little too much at you all at once. The quirky cast of side characters isn't quite as charming as the first game, and is too often pushed to the sidelines or rushed past. It's still an intriguing mystery story, but with so many ungrounded elements it's hard to be fully invested in it from start to finish.
 
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Like the first game, the gameplay in A Blessing in Disguise is a melting pot of game genre influences. Most of all it's an open-world exploration game—you travel the town of Le Carré via skateboard to investigate the murder, pick up side quests from the colorful locals, or engage in other mini-games and odd jobs. It also has third-person shooter mechanics as you battle both local wildlife (including wild dogs and alligators) and supernatural, ghostly creatures. There are survival mechanics since you have to eat and sleep semi-regularly, and of course this all comes wrapped up in a horror/mystery setting. All of these varied elements feel somehow appropriate for this oddball game, but the problem is none of them feel particularly well thought out or designed.
 
For example, you're repeatedly given tasks that can only be completed at certain times of day or on certain days of the week, but waiting for the clock to move is either ridiculously time-consuming or costly since the best way to kill time is sleeping in York's hotel room, which gives you a bill every time you do. The game is also filled with obtuse fetch quests, some of which give you a general idea of where to go while others are frustratingly vague. The shooting mechanics are basic and bland, plus there are only a couple different enemy types throughout the entire game, making every battle encounter incredibly repetitive. You do eventually unlock a fast-travel system, but otherwise traveling via skateboard is not just slow but frankly uninteresting—the joke of it all wears itself out in mere minutes. On top of all this the controls are always a little awkward. They aren't terrible, but they also aren't as smooth as they really ought to be—aiming is quite stiff and moving or riding on the skateboard just has a rather clumsy, dated feel to it. In all of this, there's something reminiscent of the original game, but is purposefully designing a game with clunky flaws mean it's quirky, or is it just bad game design?
 
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On top of all of this A Blessing in Disguise has some plain technical issues. The frame rate has been patched since its initial launch but it's still noticeably poor, especially when riding the skateboard around town. It's not unplayable but it's incredibly distracting, and makes an already dull travel experience feel that much more obnoxious. The load times are also pretty rough, especially when you exit a building and enter the open world of Le Carré. Granted, there are no loading screens once you're outside, but given the frame rate it might have been better to divide the town into sections that could load separately.
 

The game's presentation also leaves a lot to be desired. More than any of the game's other issues, the dated look of the graphics may be chalked up to a stylistic choice. The original game, after all, had dated graphics for its time as well. The effect just doesn't come together though—the choppy anti-aliasing and jittery animations add nothing to the tone or style of the game, they only detract from the experience. The audio half of the presentation manages its over-the-top quirkiness a bit better. The soundtrack isn't actually half bad, though the songs you hear most often—such as while skateboarding—end up being a bit grating. The voice work though is largely oddball and at times ridiculous, but it actually feels like it suits the bizarre tone that the game is going for more than the dated visual design.

 

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It's possible to zip through the main story (even with the time spent just killing time) in about fifteen or twenty hours, but A Blessing in Disguise also has a lot of additional content. There are tons of side quests you can tackle, though most of them lack depth—instead you're stuck doing things like "kill X amount of enemies" or fetch quests. There are also upgrades you can craft by collecting materials, though they're hardly needed to complete the main story. You can also replay the game with a new game plus to wrap up any side quests you didn't finish or to see the story again and hope it makes more sense the second time around. If, for some reason, you just can't get enough of Deadly Premonition, there are a decent number of things to do in this game, but none of them alleviate the gameplay's flaws.
 
I'll say this for the first game and Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise: you're not going to find any other games like them. That's as much of an insult as it is a compliment, but if Deadly Premonition's specific brand of weird pulled you in, you'll be satisfied with this sequel. Anyone else, however, will likely turn away after one look at the janky graphics, or the clumsy controls, or the repetitive and time-wasting tasks the game throws at you. The quirky writing and bizarre mystery at the heart of the story are definitely intriguing, but they might not be good enough to suffer through all the other aspects of the game.
 
Rating: 5 out of 10 Premonitions
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I've watched a few gameplay videos because of some of the hype that bubbled up when the sequel was first announced and I don't have too much of a grasp of what's going on.  Maybe a good thing if I ever get into them as I'll still essentially be going into it fresh.  Although, unless it's story related; what is the deal with skateboarding around?  I saw a gameplay video with it and thought it was just a minigame or some sort of side/optional thing but reading this review it sounds like it's a core part of traversing the town?  Just odd, I guess.

 

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1 hour ago, Kezay said:

I've watched a few gameplay videos because of some of the hype that bubbled up when the sequel was first announced and I don't have too much of a grasp of what's going on.  Maybe a good thing if I ever get into them as I'll still essentially be going into it fresh.  Although, unless it's story related; what is the deal with skateboarding around?  I saw a gameplay video with it and thought it was just a minigame or some sort of side/optional thing but reading this review it sounds like it's a core part of traversing the town?  Just odd, I guess.

 

 

It's your main means of transportation in the town. The in-game story explanation is York's car gets stolen, so instead he uses a skateboard to get around. In my opinion it's one of those quirky touches that is amusing initially but quickly becomes a rather tedious aspect of the game.

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